On my list of many social interaction issues, physical contact is definitely in the top three. It would be right up there with talking to people and any form of interaction with random strangers or people I haven’t seen in a long time.
I’m not a hugger. I’ve said that many times. My wife gets away with hugging me, mostly because she lets me have sex with her (it seems like a fair trade). The same goes for kissing. Again, Mrs. C gets a pass (also because of the sex) but anyone else, not so much. I have aunts who always like to greet with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, which is why I try to avoid them whenever possible.
What’s weird is I always seem to notice when someone makes deliberate, physical contact with me. Someone putting his/her hand on my shoulder, for example, immediately sets off all kinds of alarms in my head and I spend the rest of the interaction trying not to tense-up and acting like I don’t even notice. You know? Like any normal person is supposed to do.
However, much to my dismay, people are always trying to touch me. I think my overall unease with physical contact is belied by my seemingly approachable demeanor. (DAMN MY FRIENDLY FACE!!!) Just a few days ago, I was showing some students in one of my classes the video quality on my phone when the woman to my right put her arm around my back, while the one on the other side pressed her boobs into my shoulder so she could get in closer to see the screen. During all this, I was doing my best not to tense up.
It wasn’t pretty.
This is just one more reason I love Japan so much. In one of my classes I learned that a lot, like, A LOT of cultures employ handshakes and even kisses – to various degrees – as their greeting of choice. Not Japan, though. You stay at a safe distance from the person you’re meeting and bow. There’s no touching and personal boundaries are respected.
Hugging and kissing people is bad enough but what I find I have a lot of issues with is the whole act of “giving” someone “five”.
I know. I know. It’s just a quick slap of someone else’s palm that lasts less than a second and, as such, should be the least invasive form of physical contact. Right? Well, have you ever thought of the mechanics involved with giving five to someone? I have. I overthink the process every time I placed in a position where a “five” must be bestowed.
Every. single. time.
When someone extends his/her palm towards me I immediately begin to second guess my actions My thoughts in the split-second before I act flow something like this:
Dammit! He just reached out his hand. Is he looking for a handshake? What were we just talking about? I made a joke and he thought it was funny and apparently well suited to the situation. A handshake is probably too formal for this scenario.
So it’s a five then?
Simple enough. Just a quick slap of his palm and that should seal the deal. A quick slap contact shouldn't be more than a second or else things could get weird.
How hard should slap his hand?
Hmm... I remember reading that guys often use these forms of social interaction amongst each other as an opportunity to display his physical strength. One good, hard slap should do.
But what if I hit his hand too hard? What if I focus too much on power and lose accuracy in the process? It would probably be awkward if I miss his hand altogether and swat at thin air.
Should I look at his hand when I give him the five? That will help with my aim. Do people look at each other’s hands when doing this?!
Okay, I won’t look at his hand. I’ll give a moderate slap so I can make sure my aim is good.
It can’t be too soft, though. That would be weird. Plus, he might form doubts about my masculinity.
I need to angle my wrist properly too. Otherwise, I’ll just end up hitting his hand wrong and not making the proper “slapping” sensation. I’m sure I’ll lose points if I connect with the heel of my palm or, even worse, karate-chop his hand.
Okay, this is taking long. I'll just do it and get it over with…
DAMMIT, I missed!
See? It’s not as easy as you may think. This is why I prefer a fistbump (of a “bounce”, as we call them here). Those are easy. You see someone extend a fist, all you have to do is touch that fist with your fist. The. end. About the only time things go off track is when the other person decides to add that sudden wide-spread palm while making an explosion sound-effect right after the bump.
I don’t like those people.
Fortunately, most tend to stay away from that maneuver.
Aside from that, all you have to worry about with a bounce is getting the aim right which, I must admit, I don’t always nail with 100% accuracy.
I don’t want to talk about it.